Our first Fall 2021 CD release announcement celebrates the debut CD, A Voice from the Distance by Canadian pianist Andrea Botticelli!

Before I introduce you to this marvelous Canadian pianist and reveal the story behind her CD debut, I want to express my gratitude for the wonderful connections in music I’ve had the pleasure of making over the years through my modest but mighty blog interviews.

My recent blog interview with renowned pianist and piano professor Inna Faliks on her recent CD release, Reimagine: Beethoven and Ravel, led to my introduction to her gracious and dedicated PR manager, Gail Wein of Classical Music Communications.

Apparently Ms. Wein was so satisfied with my Inna Faliks blog that she invited me to interview another fine pianist she has taken under her wing, Andrea Botticelli. When I learned Ms. Botticelli’s CD championed lesser known musical gems, I was totally on board. Those of you who know me know my passion for bringing to light beautiful lesser known music. I’m pleased to share her story with you.

 
Andrea Botticelli is interviewed by Pastimes for a Lifetime

Andrea Botticelli, photo credit Kate Szatmari

LRW: As an art teacher, the cover art of a CD gets noticed right away. May I ask who designed your CD cover art? Were they hired by the record label or did you get to choose?

AB: I really wanted the CD art to be beautiful to reflect the spectacular location of the project in Banff and the special experience of being able to record my CD there. I hired multi-talented graphic designer and photographer Kristan Toczko who also happens to be an accomplished musician!

 
Kristan Toczko designed the cover art to Andrea Botticelli's first CD.

Kristan Toczko, Graphic Designer

 

Coincidentally, she had also spent some memorable time at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, so she had many fine pictures of the scenery there. In the end, we were able to choose a picture that shows the misty, far away top of a mountain that I thought reflected the title of the CD, A Voice From the Distance.

LRW: Ms. Toczko did a wonderful job. It totally does. How nice to learn she’s also an accomplished harpist! What a great connection. Your CD is entitled A Voice from the Distance. How and why did you choose that title ?

AB: The title of the album, Stimme aus der Ferne – A Voice From the Distance refers to an indication written in the score of the Novellette, by Robert Schumann. Amid a tumultuous and highly varied movement, the music suddenly becomes tender and intimate. The lyrical melody from the Notturno by Clara Schumann becomes the “voice from the distance” that Robert quotes, as though the beloved theme drifts into his mind as he is composing: a poetic illustration of the presence of Clara, in thought and in music. In addition to Clara Schumann’s musical theme, the phrase “a voice from the distance” alludes to the sound of the fortepiano evoking a faraway musical past.

LRW: Wow. I had no idea. That gave me goosebumps. I will listen for that. You’ve selected works by Robert and Clara Schumann, Franz Schubert and Carl Czerny. Why these composers and pieces? Why now? Details, please.

 
 

AB: The repertoire on the album was carefully chosen to highlight the Banff fortepiano’s unique expressive capabilities. Firstly, I chose lyrical music that I really love! I also wanted to showcase the music of a range of composers because each piece reveals how they used the sonority of the instrument in their own way. The pairing of the last two pieces by Clara and Robert Schumann was my way of highlighting their deep human and artistic connection. 

LRW: I love lyrical music, too! You put a lot of thought and heart into your choice of repertoire. The piano chosen for recording this CD is the Graf fortepiano owned by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada. From what I read, it was built by Rodney Regier in 2014 and is a replica of a typical Viennese fortepiano from the 1830s. Why choose this piano instead of a Steinway or other concert grand?

 
The Graf FortePiano is mentioned in Pastimes for a Lifetime's interview with pianist Andrea Botticelli.

The Graf FortePiano

 

AB: Playing this repertoire on a piano from its time brings us closer to the original sound that the composers would have heard playing their music.

LRW: That makes sense. I love hearing music performed on the authentic instruments from the period when the music was composed. So, what’s the story on Conrad Graf?

 
Conrad Graf is mentioned in Pastimes for a Lifetime's interview with pianist Andrea Botticelli.

Conrad Graf

 

AB: Conrad Graf was arguably the most accomplished and well-known builder in Vienna and his instruments typify the 19th century Viennese piano ideal, an instrument whose sound and dimensions composers of the time would have known well. I feel that hearing these original sounds reveals much that is unique and characteristic about the music.

LRW: Thanks for the intel. Recording on this instrument transforms your CD into a time capsule. I’m curious about what the piano sounds like and what its action feels like.

AB: There are variations in sound quality between the different registers of a fortepiano, such as a speaking or singing middle register; a thin, reedy upper register; and a lighter, clearer bass. The Viennese fortepiano also features a lighter and shallower action, rendering it very responsive and capable of nuances of sound and shaping. Nineteenth century fortepianos often featured a wider selection of pedals, tone-modifying devices that added extra colors and effects to the fundamental piano sound. This fortepiano features a damper pedal, una corda pedal, and a third pedal known as the moderator. When this pedal is depressed, a piece of felt is inserted between the hammers and strings to sweetly mute the sound and create an intimate whisper in soft passages.

LRW: Whoa! I had no idea such a pedal existed! That’s so amazing. I’d love to experience playing this fantastic piano and trying out that third pedal someday. Please go on.

AB: The registration and sound of the fortepiano adds a clarity to the repertoire and a distinct character to musical themes written in different parts of the keyboard. For instance, in Variations on a Theme by Rode, Czerny highlights the transparent, sparkling upper register of the instrument by writing extended passages of virtuosity and brilliance. There is also an increased range of softer dynamic levels when using the full range of pedals on the fortepiano.

In the second movement of the Schubert Sonata, I interchange passages using the soft una corda pedal and the even softer moderator to create an added layer of intimacy. I have also used this pedal to create an extra quiet and ethereal effect in moments of Schumann’s Papillons and Novellette.

LRW: You have brilliantly studied and utilized the nuances of this incredible instrument to serve the compositions recorded. Bravo! I understand this is your first album of solo piano works. Have you recorded CDs with other musicians? If so, may I ask what were they and if they are available for streaming or purchase?

AB: This is my first commercial recording of any kind!

LRW: Congratulations! And cheers to more CDs to come. There are many labels out there. Why did you decide to produce the CD yourself?

AB: Since I conceived the idea of this unique CD project, and I secured all the funding and found recording engineers who had experience working with historical keyboards, it seemed logical to continue with the project as its main producer. The tools to produce recordings independently are more and more available these days. I also liked the freedom to conceive and choose repertoire and spearhead the project.

LRW: Ah, yes. Having recording engineers with backgrounds working with period instruments would be a pivotal decision. As a fellow fempreneur, I salute your creative efforts. Why record at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity?

 
The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is mentioned in Pastimes for a Lifetime's Blog

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

AB: The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is one of the only places to find an instrument like this available and it also features a built-in studio for recording projects! It turned out to be the perfect place to spend an extended period to record the project.

 

LRW: So glad you found this place! A perfect fit for your project. May I ask, is this CD part of a series of albums dedicated to these composers rather than a standalone recording?

AB: This was meant as a stand alone recording, although I really like the idea of programming well-known and lesser-known music together and finding artistic connections between the different musical pieces. At the moment, I am planning future musical projects with this same theme.

LRW: I’m a champion of lesser-known music and composers as well. It’s wonderful that you put so much thought into the connections between pieces on the album, too. With many concert halls still closed, would you happen to be planning a live stream event of some of these remarkable works? Maybe a YouTube video or a series? If so, may we please know the link where to view them? Thank you.

AB: Since I can’t schedule a CD launch tour because of the pandemic, I have decided to produce a video series about the project. Please enjoy the first promotional video, below.

 

The rest of the series will be streamed on my YouTube channel.  You are welcome to like and subscribe to tune in for the behind-the-scenes story of the project!LRW: Thank you for the links. Subscribed! Once concert halls open again, do you plan to perform these works live? If so, how may my students, readers and I be kept informed? Is there a mailing list we may subscribe to?

AB: You may subscribe to my mailing list on my website. Scroll down towards the end of the home page and enter your email address to stay informed about upcoming events related to the CD.

LRW: Thank you so much. Where may my readers purchase your CD? Is it also available on music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple iTunes, etc.?

AB: The CD is available for purchase on Amazon.com and on my website’s shop page. The physical CDs as well as digital download versions are available for sale. It is also available on all the major music streaming platforms.

LRW: Great! I encourage my students and readers to indulge their love for beautiful piano performances on an authentic instrument from the time the music was composed, and include your CD among their collections.

Best wishes to you and your wonderful musical projects. Our culture is richer because of them.

To learn more about pianist Andrea Botticelli, check out her website and social media platforms.
Website
Facebook Page
Instagram
Twitter
YouTube

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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.

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